I wasn’t too vocal about my choice of living a childfree lifestyle up until a couple of years ago. I will admit that part of the reason I was so quiet about it was that I felt ashamed. I thought there had to be something very wrong with me that led me to believe that I didn’t want to become a mother, so I was denying that part of myself the right to let loose and express freely.
When I finally lifted the societal pressure veil from my head and arranged the mess it had made of my hair, I felt so relieved. I also felt like I owed to my old self to talk openly about being childfree to bring more awareness to this subject, especially to those people who still live by XVIIIth century norms.
Criticism didn’t take too long to arrive. It started with a simple “You will eventually change your mind” said to me matter-of-factly by one of my friends. “When I was younger, I also thought maybe I wasn’t going to get married and have kids, but look at me now! I love my husband, we have two adorable children, and I am so happy I could burst!”
People in our social circle gossip. This is probably one of the things I hate most about living in such a backward society. Many people seem to spend more time talking about others than focusing on themselves. From what I had heard other people say about my friend and her marriage, I had an inkling that what she was saying wasn’t entirely true. But it’s not my place to contradict what her pictures on Instagram showed and her motivational quotes on Facebook said.
A few weeks later, someone else said to me, “You should have at least one child! You wouldn’t want to get uterine cancer, would you?”
Apparently, women who never give birth to a child are 2 times more likely to develop uterine cancer than women who give birth at least once. I also happened to be born in one of the regions in Colombia that has one of the highest rates of breast and cervical cancer in the country, the latter also blamed on the lack of progeny.
I had now been doomed by this person to suffer from cancer due to my choice. Great.
After some time, I was a lot firmer on my decision and decided to formally tell my family. It’s not that I had to, but that’s a thing in my culture. You have to communicate things in the least casual way you can so that you’re taken seriously about anything. Conversely, when you communicate a very serious thing in a casual way, it’s like it’s not even a thing.
When I told my sister, my open-minded, loving sister (no sarcasm), who I really thought was going to be supportive from the get-go, the first thing that came out of her mouth was an ironic, “Well, thanks so much for not making me an aunt!” She was implying that I was being selfish because she’d always wanted to be an aunt, and since I’m her only sister, that possibility flew out the window.
To her credit, she started following what I did on The Uprising Spark, listening to my podcast and watching the Childfree Girls’ episodes, and she has since become a lot more supportive than I ever imagined her to be.
Now it was time to talk to father and mother.
My news was met by puzzled looks. My mom started firing questions at me: “Are you sure? Have you thought about it? But… but… I thought you wanted to have kids! What happened?”
After a while I could see my father was tired of hearing us in an endless back and forth, which is a common trait of his, so he just shrugged and stood up. “It’s your choice,” he said and walked away. My mother said, “Oh well, we still have Euro,” and changed the subject.
You should know that Euro is my dog, and she does show off pictures of him to her friends, like she would with the grandkid I will never give her.
I thought that had gone better than expected, but I was wrong. You see, my mother was still holding on to the idea that I might change my mind, to that one day I would announce that I was going to have a baby and that she would be a grandmother. I knew she still had some hope and, as much as I didn’t want to crush it, I felt I had to do something else to make sure she, and everyone else, knew that I was serious.
Opportunity didn’t take long to arrive.
My aunt was in town visiting us. She always asks me about my love life, and this time around it wasn’t the exception. I was in a serious relationship at the time, so I told her about my boyfriend. She smiled at me and said, “Well, I can’t wait for you to announce your first pregnancy!”
“As a matter of fact,” I replied, “we’re taking every precaution so that a pregnancy never happens.”
Her eyes opened wide as she said, “Well, I hope those precautions fail…”
I felt a chill go down my spine. Did this woman just wish an abortion on me?
That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I made an appointment with my GYN and within two months of that conversation I had my tubes tied. That’s when I think it really sank in for my mother, too. For many people, actually, I believe it was one of those “Oh yeah, she’s serious about this” moments.
Do we really need to go to such great lengths to be taken seriously?
I do not regret getting an elective sterilization surgery, I’m actually quite lucky that I was allowed to have one when so many women are denied theirs! But I had to go all-in to prove that I was serious about my choice to not ever become anyone’s mother, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had to go to such great lengths.
Isabel Firecracker is the founder and firebrand of The Uprising Spark, a platform designed to help modern, childfree women define and reach their life goals. She is a world traveler, an avid kitesurfer, and loves dogs. Pragmatic, no-nonsense life purpose igniter and host of The Honest Uproar podcast. Childfree intersectional feminist.